... there are other chelas of other Masters ... they love your "Western Metaphysicians" still less than they do Orthodox Brahmins ... They are CHELAS after all, and there is much of the mortal man in them yet ... they are great friends with the native Peruvian, Mexcian and Red Indian Adepts and chelas.
THE LETTERS OF H.P. BLAVATSKY TO A.P. SINNETT, p. 85.
By H. Oosterink
[Theosophical University Press, Covina, California, 1946, pages 19-37.]
When people have passed through this phase of suffering, only a new insight in life can help them to find the strength to straighten themselves, an insight which comes to them as a revelation and inspires them to begin a new and happier life, a vision that frees them from the psycho-magnetic power of the world of desire. The absence of this insight and the lack of inspiration, a life devoid of the splendor of spiritual beauty, brought them to ruin.
Men long for possession, for the satisfaction of their desires, whatever they may be, but in many lives also they feel the nobler and loftier aspiration to truth and light.
The problems of life ask for a solution; unsatisfied desires lead to disappointment; fulfilled wishes only bring new ones in their train.
The price which life demands of those who are immersed in selfishness and desire is unrest and sorrow.
They find rest and peace in whose hearts there arises a longing to search for truth and light behind the veil of life in order to serve their fellow men. I do not say "The Truth," for this transcends all human thinking, but a search for truth, for ways that will advance them a step in their inner growth, that will help them forward a little on the path leading to enlightenment.
This path is trodden by every man who has become conscious, however little, of the spiritual splendor which shines from the core of his being, and which incites him to investigation.
Many have already gone before us who have followed this path. They have been the leaders and guides of humanity throughout the ages.
Alas, people do not ask themselves what may have induced a sage or teacher to promulgate his doctrines; they do not follow him on his path to enlightenment to become enlightened themselves. They quote his statements and formulate them into a religion, while the living fire which kindled the teacher is extinguished. That is why there is no sense in asking what religion a man professes; for him his religion is the right one. But what internal light has been kindled in him, to what extent has his consciousness become alive to the great mystery, in other words what has the doctrine made of him?
Some chosen people have access to the realm of the spirit. It is especially in these confusing and hard times that we realize how much humanity owes to them. In the core of their being, they have discovered the background of life, each of them to an extent corresponding with his state of consciousness, and they have brought us their messages. They are for all times. One who wants to remain himself, who wants to hold the bond with the life of his highest consciousness, derives his consolation and understanding from their experiences.
The times rush on, life throws us hither and thither, fear tries to get hold of us.
However, our highest Self is unperturbed.
This is the problem before us: to remain our highest Self, never to lose sight of the background of life, to feel keenly that nothing can harm us because -- however much our personal feelings may be hurt -- we can never be touched in the essence of our selves. The fear loses its grip on us, unrest disappears and peace takes its place.
This does not mean a flight from life, but a continuous contact with, and a constant drawing on, the source of our being, in order that we may become in this life what we are, the boundless and infinite Self. The task which life sets us is devotion to the higher Self.
Life produces from itself numerous forms, all of which show a certain degree of consciousness. The inspiriting forces of Creation descend into the beings they create and drive them along, and among all these beings is also "man."
I will talk now only about man, though I believe that Creation pursued a definite object in ensouling also the other entities that issued from nature's womb. If there is any sense behind life, the great vital principle arranges itself through all creatures, and the Nameless, the Sublime, surpassing all understanding and thinking, unfolds itself as "Creation." Let us therefore try to build a bridge that will connect men with the sublime background of the Creation of Life, which animates not only man but all living creatures, in order that we may understand its purpose and consciously cooperate with it.
Every man is a center of consciousness. His perceptions, his emotions, his thoughts, in short all his reactions to the outer world, are focused into one central point, the "I." This invisible vital center is the pivot of our existence. So many men, so many beings who can say "I." Thus every man forms a world in himself. So long as people do not have a more profound insight into themselves, and live on as separated units, live on blind to the endless possibilities of the development of their spiritual consciousness, these separate lives will keep colliding and there will be strife, either on a large or on a small scale.
Preservation of the personal self is based on a broken picture of life. This small world draws the limit within which the average man lives "his workaday life," a secluded existence, blind to the splendid beauty of his real self.
If I may give an example from ordinary life, I should like to compare human consciousness to a wireless set that can be tuned into various wavelengths. If the center of our consciousness can be shifted, this center receives impressions from other spheres of life. Unconscious of this possibility, most people live in one sphere, which is determined by their emotions and thoughts.
Yet our consciousness is open to endless perspectives of spiritual growth, and people possess many powers which are not active in this phase of their evolution, but which may be stimulated to action. There is away of self-directed evolution and growth by which searching man may travel, a way which opens his consciousness to other worlds of existence; which may bring him wisdom and experience as yet unknown to him.
The center of his consciousness, which now receives the impressions of the personal, earthly man, is infinitely susceptible to perceptions.
If we manage to withdraw our attention from this life outside ourselves, which, as it were, holds humanity in its forcible grip, and calmly turn our thoughts to the higher worlds of life, we enter fields of consciousness which we had not touched, where we never had left a trace so far.
This is no faith; it cannot be imparted to any person. Everyone has to discover it for himself. The way we have to go may only be pointed out; our hearts' craving for enlightenment and emancipation induces us to follow it.
All humanity is irresistibly urged on to follow this path of voluntary spiritual growth, as in spring the fermenting, rising sap swells and bursts the buds. He who remains blind to the power that sustains life, exposes himself continuously to a source of disappointment and unfulfilled desires; even if he is unconscious of their cause. He is liable to all sorts of grief to which life subjects him, because his desires make him attached to the object toward which his thoughts and desires are directed. This object causes him eternal sorrow. He who wants to raise himself above it, finds a possibility in himself, by devotion to, by absorption in, that which is above the temporal and passing.
I can only for a moment call forth the vision which leads to an escape from this sphere of life, a vision on which our thoughts must be continuously bent. Our thoughts must become contemplative so that we can, as it were, see the sublime beauty of the spirit shining in the mirror of a quiet mind.
Many generations have attempted to record their experiences on this point in a special form, they wanted their devotion to this higher life made clear to others. Many religions and many quarrels have resulted from it. It does not matter in what form man gives expression to it, if only he lives and moves and has his being in "it." Deep within himself every man is divine; his being is anchored in, and is a part of, a more sublime consciousness. At last the separate centers of consciousness unite and dissolve in the cosmic consciousness from which they sprang.
If we could look into the long distant past and into the far future, we should discover that our descent is just as glorious and sublime as our future; that this phase of our existence is only a period of darkness on our journey to the boundless. Life is a fragment, a part of a larger arc, of consciousness, from which we will one day draw our strength.
If I say: man is essentially divine, I do not mean that at this stage of his evolution, in this phase of his life, he can give expression to this divine power.
Light shines through many and different veils more or less vaguely, more or less clearly, into creatures that are all without exception on their way to a higher form of existence. In fact, our whole life is a hierarchy of different creatures, closely connected, all in different phases of development, unfolding or growing, coming from and going back to the source of life from which it resulted. There is no death, there is only life, there is a continuous metamorphosis and development of consciousness, an ever extending growth, an eternal waking up of consciousness to self-consciousness, to divine self-consciousness. Life is the mirror in which the Unknowable learns to know itself.
Our life is a pilgrimage, our past extends into infinity and there never was a time when we were not; our future is the infinite, the boundless. Nay, even more: We are the Boundless Infinite Self. We have always been and shall always be it. He who dwells and reflects in silence on this sublime truth, learns more than can be found in all books.
In a very old and sacred work I read these words:
Look about you, 0 pupil, observe this infinite, boundless Creation -- and now -- look into yourself: "You are it."
Man is a center of consciousness. His sensations converge in an invisible center, his "Self." This "Self," the pivot of his consciousness, extends from the one river bank of life to the other, from the boundless to the boundless, it is eternal, indestructible. It embraces everything: "This am I."
These things about which I am writing, "the Self-discovery of Man," are very sacred. They are doctrines that make us see the essence of life; they tower high above the life, as we see it, they give an answer to our most vital questions. No system of social reformation can give an answer to it -- these throw no light on the questions life asks us: "Why was I born, why must I die, what is the purpose of life?"
These doctrines are like a rock in the surf of life, firm and immutable, they are like "a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path."
People who are only absorbed in everyday life have forgotten their divine parentage and have no vision of their sublime future; they are dead people. The cords of their consciousness vibrate only to the gross tones of their lower emotions, the divine harp-player within them is heard no longer.
It is the tragedy in the lives of many people that they live on, consumed with unrest, driven by a desire which is never satisfied, while they possess everything and do not realize it.
Great consternation prevails among the people: the first hostages have been shot. The injustice done to their fellow men is felt deeply by the people. How much fear they must have gone through! What was their attitude toward the problem of death? In my most profound conviction there is no reason to await death with fear. Life itself, in the dark spheres of the earth, is the only place of suffering. In the brief space of time between birth and death -- one single day of life in our boundless existence -- the soul leads a sad, wretched life, limited in its expression by human inadequacy.
When a man dies, his soul is freed, and the consciousness of spiritual beauty, for which our eyes were closed, is released.
Why then do people fear death? Why do they set so much value on life? If it is not love for those who are dear to them, what binds them so much that they do everything to forget that they do not live here, and that their souls are hardly able to breathe here?
When a man is born, THE LIGHT OF HIS HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS IS EXTINGUISHED, his spiritual world closes itself to the trials of their being which has to orient itself in this underworld.
And when a man dies he gets back the splendor of his higher consciousness, unhampered by the restrictions of the earthly existence. When a man dies, he looks back on the life he has passed through. This narrow existence, full of disappointments and uncertainties, this blindfold groping was "his life," his home. Without understanding the great miracle which is about to happen in himself now that he gets back the light of a higher consciousness, he leaves this life which only at a few definite moments was enlightened by the heavenly splendor of the spirit. Let us not fear death. Owing to a Fear of death many people hardly live.
They are unconscious of the fact that they have a task: they do not know that the powers of the soul want to manifest in them.
So, how could they be induced to cooperate in the great plan of life: the growth, the raising of man? They do not know who they are, they do not listen to the inspiration of their souls; they do not know the vision of him who, within himself, has discovered the light that shines in the darkness. So let us not fear death, it brings us peace and light. This is what I would have liked to say to the hostages.
When we look about us in these days, now that many pronounced injustices manifest themselves, we wonder: does justice exist? Of course, in peaceful times there is also injustice. The personal interests of people devoid of vision induce them continuously to cause each other sorrow and to commit injustice on a large or small scale. Now that the interests of nations and groups of people are wronged, the injustice is all the more conspicuous.
What must we tell these injured people when they see an injustice in the bitterness of their fate, and when the hatred which is growing in their hearts is the only weapon for self-defense? Are they able to understand that we cannot speak of injustice or justice in the case of all the things that happen, that compassionate powers guide the fate of humanity and that nothing befalls them which they themselves have not called forth?
Let us try to look more closely at these acute questions, and search the essence of life to find an answer.
The growth from limitation -- in which we live now -- to the Boundless, briefly called evolution, does not occur at random. The awakening to a super-sensual life, the development of consciousness, the continuous growth, take place under fixed immutable laws. We see the same phenomenon in the material worlds; the growth of plants, animals and men, of constellations and the Cosmos, occurs along lines which we call laws. These laws are, as it were, the lines of action of a Regulating Principle: if these laws did not exist, chaos would reign supreme. The development, the unfolding of the invisible cosmic life and consciousness, is the work of the same Regulating Principle.
Before a material object is made, it exists as an idea in the brain of him who gives expression to it. A composer who produces a piece of music, a poet who lays down his inspiration in the form of a poem, an architect who constructs his edifice, have the abstract form within them as an idea, an idea which gradually takes shape in their consciousness before their thoughts or their hands give expression to it.
The seed of this idea lies much deeper; it springs from the fields of the higher consciousness where the thought has not yet taken shape, but announces itself as an inspiration. The germ is boundless life, boundless consciousness, the source of our being, the Spirit. It compares with the creation of the Cosmos.
The germ is the Boundless. This germ springs from the fields of the highest cosmic consciousness and impresses itself on it as a cosmic idea.
The lines of growth are divine laws which rule these invisible worlds. Our life is also subject to these laws. They guide the evolution of all that lives.
Thus man fights against himself, his highest self, when he infringes these laws; he owes his sad experiences to himself. They may appear to him as an injustice, and cause his mind to rebel, or fill his heart with bitterness; in reality all painful experiences are the fault of him who has passed through them. He has drawn them toward himself by his own actions. Life is a magic art; we conjure up our fate and it leads us to wisdom and insight. In this way the forces of the soul drive man through experiences that are necessary to his growth. He who sees life thus, does not grumble at fate, neither does he allow himself to be cast down. He accepts life as willed by himself, in the conviction that nobody can wrong him, and he follows the path that leads to perfection, knowing that he takes an active part in a great plan of life.
When we want to rise above this dark time, our thoughts must be raised toward a height which endures for all time.
Thoughts that centuries ago brought people happiness and gave substance and depth to their lives, are of the same importance in these days. There are such great differences among thoughts that we really must linger here for a moment. There are eternal thoughts and there are temporary thoughts; valuable thoughts, which withstand the ages, and worthless thoughts, which form the rubble of life; vigorous and powerless, creative and purposeless thoughts; contemplative thoughts which reflect themselves in the light of the spirit, and dark thoughts. If a thought is to be of any value, it must raise us and open prospects to us.
The highest knowledge is that which we cannot put into words, or that which we can hardly define. Sometimes it is still and clear before us, indescribable in its grandeur and beauty. How are we to give expression to it?
When I say every man contains the Boundless -- nay, more: he IS the Boundless -- then it is quite clear to me, but much of what I say in these words remains unspoken between you and me. Again and again I am looking for another way to approach this highest thought that lives in me.
When I analyze man, when I try to define the essence of man, not a single fixed point remains of which I can say: this is man.
His body, his feelings, his intellectual life, his reason, his soul, they are as many expedients or aspects of perception of his consciousness. The body causes the consciousness, of which the invisible center is the "I," to react to physical vibrations, the emotions to psychical, and the thoughts to mental vibrations; the spiritual rouses higher reactions.
But time and again the body, the feelings, the thoughts or the soul find a consciousness that absorbs these perceptions. The consciousness itself is unfathomably deep, it is started into motion and the "I" concentrates the perceptions in itself.
I must add something. Man has another wonderful capacity: memory. Just as on a photographic plate which fixes the image after it has been taken, the image absorbed registers itself in the memory of the "Self," no matter by which organ (the body with the senses, the feelings, the intellect, reason, intuition) it has been received. As a matter of course, we come to the conclusion that some medium of a very ethereal nature is necessary to transmit the reactions of the "I" to the consciousness. If we had no memory, our reactions would volatilize like vapor and leave no lasting impression. The "I" is lasting and it is infinite.
I can imagine a man who is completely immune to any impression outside himself; his senses are at rest and inactive, his feelings, his intellect -- all that connects him with the outer world -- are completely shut off, but all the same the "I" absorbs impressions, experiences that rise high above those which ordinary life gives him.
Indeed, the fields of our consciousness extend to infinity, and man makes one discovery after another in proportion as he raises himself.
These fields extend behind the intellect; untrodden by those who are unable to raise themselves above the mind, whose intuition has not yet been awakened; they are of a heavenly beauty and very real to those who succeed in gaining admittance to them.
Where is the limit?
Nowhere. On this earth we are only passing through a phase of Creation which is enacted within us, A FRAGMENT OF THE COSMIC EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSAL I.
As a matter of fact, we have not started it on Earth -- that which is now temporary man, is eternal. That which forms the source of his existence has always been. What We call life on this earth is only a short period in which becomes active our human sphere of consciousness, which is a part of the boundless sphere of consciousness, of which our "I" is the center.
He who thinks about this experiences the unspeakable beauty of the temple of life and Creation, which is built in silence, and gets an insight into what he himself really is. He gets an idea of the infinite background of his existence.
In the Boundless our desire for life is extinguished; there we only exist; it is in the original cause of our existence, it is the beginning and the end, absorbed in the complete stillness of our being.
We can also try to approach in another way the thought that we are the Boundless.
Our material body is built up from the elements of the earth, from the substance by which it is surrounded. Thus my feelings and my intellect are an individualization of a world of feelings and a world of thoughts by which I am surrounded. There are numerous minds, each one in a different phase of development.
Mind is only a center of consciousness, abstracted or withdrawn from the great cosmic Mind.
It is the same with every power I possess, whether it is intuition or the soul life, or what not. We always see beside and about us separate lives, separate beings who have the same faculties.
All these beings, even if they are separated by a different phase of growth or development, spring from one source of life, which has, as it were, divided itself into the various beings to whom it gave separate lives. Every being has been abstracted from the Cosmos. If I should break the chains of my individualization, if I could remove the restrictions of my human existence and unfetter myself completely, my consciousness would be absorbed by the cosmic consciousness from which I arose, from which I sprang.
The limitations would cease to exist, my self-consciousness would be lost because it would dissolve in a consciousness of a higher Self -- a cosmic consciousness.
Finally the I, which now defines my essence, would dissolve in the Boundless.
When we have gained this wonderful insight -- a discovery greater than any -- and pay full attention to it, think of it devotedly, we surround ourselves with a protecting power.
For this higher and highest consciousness which is our being, which we are -- guides our life. It is the driving power of our development. It defines the lines of our growth; in other words, the will of this higher consciousness reveals itself in the form of divine laws to which our life is subjected and which we cannot infringe with impunity. The pattern of life is printed there. The life we see there is the canvas on which the weird sisters embroider life, the pattern of which is but vaguely visible.
This great idea that man is the absolute, the boundless, is the only Truth that all great Teachers of Religion -- each of them in the form that was most suitable for their time -- have brought their followers. Jesus founded his doctrine on the expression: "The Kingdom of God is within you -- or about you."
Gautama the Buddha preached: "Aim at liberation, raise yourself above your personal existence, follow the internal path that leads to Nirvana to be absorbed by a new existence beyond any understanding."
Krishna taught that man should practice Yoga and should gain his liberation, that is, by becoming one with the Highest Self.
Lao-tzu spoke of the path, the Tao which leads to the endless.
What does it matter which direction we go? They all lead to the same goal -- the acknowledgment of the highest essence of boundless man. This is the torch of the light which the most prominent people throughout generations have handed to each other.
Whatever direction man may take, whatever his faith or conception of life, it is of no value to him so long as he does not devote himself to it fully. A religion without a continued inspiring urge, without a prospect of ever-increasing perspective, without a means to make man grow steadily, does not possess living power. When man really discovers that he is the Endless and the Boundless, then this single acknowledgment is of no value. His vision suddenly revives when he goes through this experience and so reaches a height which he is unable to express in words. For a single moment he becomes a Seer.
But when he does nothing else, and lives with the conviction just gained as if no revelation had taken place in himself, he has achieved nothing. Every day anew this recognition must be experienced by him, so that he learns to live as in a sphere of eternity. He must learn to turn the searchlights of his spirit on the highest fields of his consciousness and to illuminate all perspectives of it, so that day in and day out he fills his life with it and steadily grows to a greater height.
By Countess Constance Wachtmeister
[Chapter VII from REMINISCENCES OF H.P. BLAVATSKY AND "THE SECRET DOCTRINE," Theosophical Publishing Society, London, England, 1893.]
Living in such close and familiar intercourse with HPB as I did at this time, it naturally happened that I was a witness of many of the "phenomena" which took place in her vicinity.
There was one occurrence, continuously repeated over a long period, which impressed me very strongly with the conviction that she was watched and cared for by unseen guardians. From the first night that I passed in her room, until the last that preceded our departure from Wurzburg, I heard a regularly intermittent series of raps on the table by her bedside. They would begin at ten o'clock each evening, and would continue, at intervals of ten minutes, until six o'clock in the morning. They were sharp, clear raps, such as I never heard at any other time. Sometimes I held my watch in my hand for an hour at a stretch, and always as the ten minute interval ticked itself out, the rap would come with the utmost regularity. Whether HPB was awake or asleep mattered nothing to the occurrence of the phenomenon, nor to its uniformity.
When I asked for an explanation of these raps I was told that it was an effect of what might be called a sort of psychic telegraph, which placed her in communication with her Teachers, and that the chelas might watch her body while her astral left it.
In this connection I may mention another incident that proved to me that there were agencies at work in her neighborhood whose nature and action were inexplicable on generally accepted theories of the constitution and laws of matter.
As I have already remarked, HPB was accustomed to reading her Russian newspapers at night after retiring, and it was rarely that she extinguished her lamp before midnight. There was a screen between my bed and this lamp, but, nevertheless, its powerful rays, reflected from the ceiling and walls, often disturbed my rest. One night this lamp was burning after the clock had struck one. I could not sleep, and, as I heard by HPB's regular breathing that' she slept, I rose, gently walked round to the lamp, and turned it out. There was always a dim light pervading the bedroom, which came from a night-light burning in the study, the door between that room and the bedroom being kept open. I had extinguished the lamp, and was going back, when it flamed up again, and the room was brightly illuminated. I thought to myself -- what a strange lamp, I suppose the spring does not act, so I put my hand again on the spring, and watched until every vestige of flame was extinct, and, even then, held down the spring for a minute. Then I released it and stood for a moment longer watching, when, to my surprise, the flame reappeared and the lamp was burning as brightly as ever. This puzzled me considerably, and I determined to stand there by that lamp and put it out all through the night, if necessary, until I discovered the why and wherefore of its eccentricities. For the third time I pressed the spring and turned it down until the lamp was quite out, and then released it, watching eagerly to see what would take place. For the third time the lamp burned up, and this time I saw a brown hand slowly and gently turning the knob of the lamp. Familiar as I was with the action of astral forces and astral entities on the physical plane, I had no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that it was the hand of a chela, and, surmising that there was some reason why the lamp should remain alight, I returned to my couch. But a spirit of perversity and curiosity dwelt within me that night. I wanted to know more, so I called out, "Madame Blavatsky!" then, louder, "Madame Blavatsky!" and again "Madame Blavatsky!" Suddenly I heard an answering cry -- "Oh, my heart! My heart! Countess, you have nearly killed me"; and then again, "My heart! My heart!" I flew to HPB's bedside. "I was with Master," she murmured, "why did you call me back?" I was thoroughly alarmed, for her heart fluttered under my hand with wild palpitation.
I gave her a dose of digitalis, and sat beside her until the symptoms had abated and she had become calmer. Then she told me how Col. Olcott had once nearly killed her in the same way, by calling her back suddenly when her astral form was absent from her body. She made me promise that I would never try experiments with her again, and this promise I readily gave, out of the fullness of my grief and contrition for having caused her such suffering.
But why, it will be asked, did she continue to suffer with powers at her command which could relieve suffering? Why, when she was laboring at so important a task through long hours of every day -- a task that needed a mind untroubled and a sound body -- why did she never stretch out a finger to amend the conditions and to banish weakness and pain that would have prostrated any ordinary person completely?
The question is a natural one, and it did not fail to occur to me, knowing as I did the healing powers she possessed, and her capacity to alleviate the pains of others. When the question was put to her, her answer was invariably the same.
"In Occultism," she said, "a most solemn vow has to be taken never to use any powers acquired or conferred for the benefit of one's own personal self, for to do so would be to set foot on the steep and treacherous slope that ends in the abyss of Black Magic. I have taken that vow, and I am not one to break a pledge the sanctity of which cannot be brought within the comprehension of the profane. I would rather suffer any tortures than be untrue to my pledge. As for securing more favorable conditions for the execution of my task: -- it is not with us that the end is held to justify the means, nor is it we who are permitted to do evil that good may come. "And," she went on, "it is not only bodily pain and weakness, and the ravages of disease that I am to suffer with what patience I may, subduing them by my will for the sake of the work, but mental pain, ignominy, opprobrium and ridicule."
All this was no exaggeration, no mere form of emotional expression. It was true and remained true until her death, both in fact and in the history of the society. Upon her, standing in the forefront of the ranks of the Theosophical Society, fell the poisoned darts of reprobation and misrepresentation, as upon a living sensitive shield or bulwark, behind which the real culprits, the weak and erring ones, were concealed and protected.
She was, as it were, a sacrificial victim accepting a long martyrdom, and upon her agony, and the shame which she bore so undeservedly and bravely, was. built up the prosperity of the Theosophical Society.
Very few members of the Theosophical Society are in a position to realize this. It is only those who have lived with her day by day, who have seen her hourly sufferings, and the tortures she endured from slanders and insults, and have, at the same time, watched the growth and prosperity of the Society in the comparative calm and genial atmosphere secured to it by the shelter her conspicuous personality afforded, who can judge of the greatness of the debt they owe her, while too many do not even suspect their indebtedness.
By Reed Carson
[Following is news from a related theosophical site. See
for more information.]
In a gratifying tribute to Madame Blavatsky, in the next few days we will be expecting to implement the beginning of a new Blavatsky-centered discussion list in Russian. It will be called bn-russian. As a starting subject matter it will be following the agenda of the bn-basic introduction to Theosophy. It will be possible to signup for the list on the member application on the homepage and it will be mentioned on the "talk" page and on the Russian homepage.
Galena Antonova, at firstname.lastname@example.org, whose name and email are also listed on the contributor page for maintaining the Russian page, will be managing the talk group. George Bondarev, who suggested this list, has already translated the welcome page into Russian. Thanks and best wishes are extended to you Galena and to George and everyone else who will be participating.
In the next few days (maybe tomorrow) the database will start accepting participants. Sometime in about a month all participants will be notified and the course will begin. This month-long delay will allow some number of participants time to join. We will be taking into account Russian holidays in picking the actual start date.
This new list will be made possible technically by all the troubles we have been wading through in moving to the new server, and for a little while now has been one of my several driving motives.
Also some people have been making contributions toward the Spanish page and we have been delinquent in moving in that direction, but we very much want to. Demands on our time have been crushing. As we gather our efforts together once again in that direction, squeezing our time again, please feel free to email email@example.com. She will need your help and we very much want bn-espanol to also be functioning usefully and serving the Spanish community.
On another new item, we have, from time to time, received requests of various forms to supply the back quotes of the day. So now, right under the quote of the day from HPB, is a click called "back quotes". It leads to the accumulated quotes of the day since they started this February. As you can imagine they make a striking tour through the Secret Doctrine, her magnum opus.
Most of my time this month on this site has been spent working toward moving this site to the new server and starting bn-basic. Today, mostly all of the site has been moved to the new server. The bookstore has not yet been moved because it uses secure transactions that are a special consideration but not necessary to move at this time. A few items are temporarily non-functioning but we hope will be working more or less immediately. For me, this has meant conquering the new operating system, Linux, that is making waves in the industry, and also Apache, the web server that is doing the same.
The discussion list that we have been waiting for, bn-basic covering the basic teachings of Theosophy, now has to await my further conquering Lyris, the superb software that handles discussion lists. That process has begun and has a little more to go. But I certainly expect the new list to be able to begin this month. I will pick some time relative to the new year and every person subscribed [at Blavatsky Net] and waiting for it will receive an email when it does start.
By Grigor Vahan Ananikian
[based upon a September 22, 1999 posting to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
[Many are the traditions that embody the esoteric philosophy, including the Sufi, alchemical, Greek, Zoroastrian, Tantric Buddhism, and even Orthodox Christianity ...]
All these traditions describe the first step as one involving separating buddhi from the lower manas, or rather, of awakening buddhi to itself in distinction from manas.
But today, some in the Theosophical Society don't even have a clear and distinct inner experiential sense of the difference between buddhi and manas. Yet, since many do not know how to experientially distinguish between these two faculties, much confusion and erroneous conceptions arise when some speak of the buddhi being this, or that, or the other thing without knowing what they are talking about.
To have an amateur at golf try to pass himself off as a golf-pro in conversation with (unknown to him) a real golf-pro quickly becomes a rather amusing but embarrassing experience for the golf-pro who has to witness another person make a buffoon of themselves.
It is similar to when the young man seeks to conceal the fact of his virginity by posing as an experienced man of the world to an older and wiser woman.
Yet, such situations happen more in the Theosophical Society when someone begins to speak of practical theosophy. The conceptual distinction is only a provisional map of a real distinction that has to be repeatedly explored experientially in order to be known.
Buddhi and manas have a flowing dynamic relation except in some intense degrees of samadhi that are not really useful states to work in.
To practice a martial art as a way in practical theosophy is to have a degree of concentration of the buddhi but not to such a degree that it is altogether withdrawn from the manas or the manas have stopped all function. Rather, it is to keep them distinct in the thick of things, movement, response, timing, blow and countermove.
Sitting meditation is only preparation. Just as being able to stand on a surf board (buddhi) in a still pond (manas and lower faculties in life) is not surfing, neither is sitting meditation the great work of spiritual transformation. Surfing and true spiritual work is where buddhi and manas and the lower faculties in life are in a dynamic situation just like the ability to stay on the board is a dynamic one of staying with the surf.
The ability to be illumined has to become an ability to remain such in the hustle and bustle of life. The distinction between buddhi and manas has to become as experientially clear as the equally experienced difference is between seeing through the eyes and hearing through the ears or between a sensation, emotion, or thought.
Without knowing the difference, experientially, between buddhi and manas, how does one know or have any hope of knowing what to separate from what, since it is commonly accepted that separation of buddhi from manas is one of the key steps in practical theosophy.
Yet, it has been mistakenly suggested by some that buddhi is some kind of high produced by autosuggestion. These writers confuse buddhi with a state that is the exact opposite of buddhi when they associate it with different kinds of trance states which are, again, nothing but specially induced forms of suggestibility and sleep. But not much more can be said on this first point as long as many choose to remain bookworms of theosophy.
Not knowing the nature or purpose of the spiritual path, some theosophical writers have postulated, and brought many after them to believe, that vegetarianism and celibacy are important, if one wanted to progress spiritually, and sometimes, have given the impression that such things are the substance of spirituality itself.
And that is a problem.
The Theosophical Society has become a opiate for spiritual couch potatoes and some want to control the drug and the proceeds from it.
Perhaps, in order that the drug is not discovered to be the counterfeit it is offered by blind guides, authentic practical theosophy has become something it is encouraged to have be forgotten. And the various techniques and forms of askesis (tapas) that are periodically deployed in practical theosophy, as tools for overcoming inner weaknesses and incapacities, as medicines applied to develop spiritual strength, in this situation, have become themselves the goal or a status.
By forgetting the true ends that these tools were to serve and by making these tools themselves the goal, they have become the trappings by which inner weakness, the retreat from life, autosuggestion giving repeated doses of feeling good, and the addiction to these symptoms of malaise dress up as authentic spirituality.
And here returns our thoughts towards HPB and her spirituality forged from life in the Caucasus.
Generally, from Caucasian perspective, to be celibate is the precondition for no progress in self-knowledge or spirituality. The firm and steady foundation of self-knowledge is knowledge of oneself in light of conscience in the thick of it. One must have had the chance to be wrong, tested, and learn one's limitations and moral mistakes and regrets as well as concretely encountering one's talents, strengths, and triumphs.
We take our heroes straight, including, lumps, warts, foul breath, farts, and fleas. We don't emaciate them by turning Arjunas of the Gita or Kay Khusrow of the Shahnama into glorified sissies after image of wimps like some second-generation theosophists. Nor do we turn our angels into fat little babies or whispy little girls in Victorian nighties. Nor is spirituality the faded blue lodge atmosphere of an old maid aunt society that would faint with apoplexy over an HPB walking in cussing because the atmosphere was one of perfumed death such as one finds on cancer ward of old hospitals (Hemingway's description of the smell of death is actually the smell of cancer).
Spirit is spiritedness. It is a fierce and vigorous concept and reality. We still speak of a horse that has spirit or of esprit de corp. Spirit is that strong vital bond of life overcoming death.
The word BRAHMAN comes from the old ksatriya word for a powerful true boast that works up others into a readiness to do battle by overcoming fears through collective elan and esprit de corp. It is cognate to the English word BRAG and Norse word for poetry, riddles, and divine power.
Brahman is the boast of the vigor of Being (sat) over the impotence of non-Being (asat). Next, it was applied by Vedic priests to those mantras in the Rig Veda that were particularly potent pieces. Its verbal root means "to swell".
Ever see the super-vigor of a pregnant woman almost smug with the degree of life and health radiating from her? That is the swelling that Brahman is. In Persian, it is fravahr and is cognate to the English word FIERCE. It is the joyful overabundance of life's immortal defeat of death. Thumos in Greek means the same thing. Thumos is cognate to English enthusiasm.
What the meek of heart types call "spiritual" is Victorian weakness, repression, and de-spirited depression laced with autosuggestion (the very opposite of buddhi). It is the false "joy" of the opiate addict or hypochondriac (doctor to hypochondriac: I have bad news and good news. You are a hypochondriac and I can't cure you of it. Doctor to normal mortal patient: I have good news and bad news. You are not a hypochondriac.").
What some fainting lilies, poor specimens of the human race, call "spiritual" is their own glorified incapacity, hypocrisy, and stench of the spiritually dying. They can only faint at the sight of a steak, become sick at the smell of a cigar, swoon or become tipsy after a shot of whiskey or vodka or retsina, or pale at a colorful comment from HPB.
Like the ephemeral mood music that blends with their lilac or lavender incense to create a heard and smelt haze that suits their faded "spirituality," which is actually their de-spirited stupor, and who make lodges smell and feel like a hospital ward for the terminally nostalgic, they recommend celibacy.
Because they are undersexed, under-spirited, and perhaps, will only enjoy, vicariously, rumors of reincarnation and immortality, what's left in them to withstand the shock of death? What of substance has been gathered in this life that is of immortal value? Do they forget there is spiritual death according to HPB?
As the Naqshibandi Imam Shamil of Daghestan is credited as saying, "if a man looses all spiritual composure at seeing a military field surgery, what makes you think that the spiritual composition that was once him will survive when the angel of death takes the body that was really what held him together for inwardly he is nothing?"
Fasting, celibacy, and other such askesis was to overcome and a sign of growing strength, not of the incapacity of the meek-hearted in life.
Judaism, Sufis of Islam, Zoroastrianism, for example, forbid the monkish life as a permanent lifestyle. For them, a monastic retreat is not a retreat from life but an intensified confrontation with it under carefully controlled and monitored conditions under the watchful eye of a Spiritual Director.
For these traditions, a monastery is a laboratory. But, to test the knowledge and strength gained, one most again leave the laboratory and field test it in life. Such forms of askesis are temporary. Being celibate for 90 days by one who enjoys sex frequently is both more difficult and more productive than of one who hasn't developed the capacity for it, the taste for it and enthusiasm for it. Fasting from cognac by one who has never savored it regularly is worthless. Because these are supplementary means to strengthen your mettle for the real test.
For a real man (I do not presume to speak for women on this matter), to fast from the sex and cognac that he dearly loves, while an exercising and development of real spiritual strength, is only preparing for the real battle that is also being set up in the process.
Fasting, as all ancient sources teach, is to do spiritual battle with the emotions. The meek of heart will agree, and then, mistakenly add, fasting quells strong emotions.
But the purpose of fasting as a means to do spiritual battle with the emotions is not to quell them but self-knowledge. And in the early stages, self-knowledge is the gaining of an accurate knowledge of one's angelic aspirations and one's habit of being an s-o-b.
We are very complicated entities. Self-mastery requires self-knowledge. Self-knowledge has to see how we inwardly function and malfunction. It must confront the good and bad in us. Fasting, whether from food or sex, is ultimately to see (buddhi).
Fasting for a while from something one dearly loves brings out one's irritability, bad temper, foul mood, and anger very effectively. That is the setting up of the inner battle.
THE REAL TEST IS THEN TO USE AND DEVELOP THE INNER STRENGTH GAINED IN FOREGOING SEX AND COGNAC TO NOT IDENTIFY THE BUDDHI WITH THESE EMOTIONS BUT SEE THEM AND OVERCOME THE RESULTING IRRITABILITY, BAD TEMPER, FOUL MOOD, AND ANGER that invariably results in one not yet perfect. But the real test, fasting inwardly from all the negativity that arises from fasting outwardly from a cherished desire, is still only a test.
The reality is to learn to use this new inner ability, strength, and knowledge (esoteric knowledge, gnosis, jnana, is more like "know how" skill or competence that conceptual information) in the thick of things, in life, where things evoke hurt, anger, and bad temper.
The meek-hearted fast, vegetate, and celibate in order to avoid this process in the first place. No real loves, no real passions, no real angers and animosities, no real addictions, no real lusts, then nothing real to overcome. Self-mastery becomes mistakenly identified by the meek at heart with the composure of not having a life.
Fasting, vegetarianism, and celibacy are limited tools for limited times serving other ends than auto-pacification. Some think they are the end-in-themselves, and thus, stick in their thumb and pull out their shriveled plum, and say how spiritual are we when all they are is full of prunes (those shriveled plums).
No one is born perfect. But to become perfect one must have lived a real life, with real defeats, regrets, real mistakes, blood or dirt on ones hands, while trying to do good, help, contribute -- all that is to learn from as a picture of who you are and where you are aiming really. (Are you really aiming at perfecting evolution or use it as a fancy label to mask your nefarious goals?)
Self-knowledge for the imperfect (us) is of the bad and the good we are. We are angels and wolves. We have to be looking not only when our angelic pious Sunday best is in charge (so we can thrill to our piousness) but also catch ourselves in the act when the wolf is in control.
To look at the wolf in us takes courage, some spirit that is strong enough to bear seeing in us what we don't like to see and sometimes have built-up a lifetime of habits to avoid seeing.
We are deluded if we only look at ourselves when we are angels and don't allow ourselves to see the wolf and we are mistaken if we think purpose of seeing the wolf is to eliminate it.
Does this mean we should allow the wolf in us free-rein? Should we increase in our wolfishness? No, we have done that too much already. We are inwardly in our daily routines the wolf most of the time. But to tame the wolf, to reclaim the energies it represents, we need to first know that it is there and what its habits are.
The meek of heart deceive themselves if they believe that their methods of auto-pacification and autosuggestion have eliminated the wolf in them. Rather, what happens is the wolf under these conditions becomes more devious and malicious. It becomes one that is submissive in a face to face confrontation but attacks the hind quarters as soon as the other has turned.
The dirtiest underhanded dealings have come from the polite society of those clothed as innocent lambs who can't admit to themselves that they are repressed, and therefore, more dangerous wolves.
We must not deny the wolf but find its proper role and place within the larger moral, spiritual, and cosmic scheme. So, we must study both wolf and angel in us. To do that takes courage, tenacity, and dogged stubbornness that we will know the truth of ourselves. That is spirit, the ability to overcome ourselves.
The meek-spirited armchair theosophists mistakenly took the route of weakening ourselves, starving the wolf, killing the spiritual muscle, and deludedly called it spiritual evolution or spiritual self-mastery. Bull!
To truly be a character, one must be an outrageous character. By that I mean we need to see we are all notorious characters of a questionable past and dubious worth as well as angels in training to become a tried and tested character, refined through the fire of life, to become a character that is truly a self-mastered moral character.
Our imperfections, our impulses, our angel and our wolf, is the leaden raw material and prima materia for our transmutation. Yet some misguided theosophists wish to beat the lead into a soft plaint powder whose poisonous effect on the mind they mistakenly laud as a higher state. Bah!
In middle east, the best medium of testing and refining one's mettle is family and sex and money and death. As angel and wolf, how does one deal with these dimensions of life is thing first to find out as gauge to one's spiritual worth. Marriage is good for that. As it is said in Caucasus, a man is not a man worth his salt if he hasn't been salted, assaulted, and insulted in holy wedlock.
Of course, marriage is not an exclusive measure nor is it merely the same as sex. But it is a mixed blessing where, like any mixed blessing, the spiritual task is to learn how to turn the obstacles and disappointments in life into opportunities for spiritual development. It is the immensely difficult task to learn how to live the theosophical life as one capable, in one life or many, of taking good times and bad times, opportunities and obstacles, duties and temptations, as lessons.
Ibn Ata'illah, the great Sufi, writes in his Hikam, "when God gives to you the object of your desire, he deprives you of the freedom from being tempted, and when God deprives you, he is giving you an opportunity. Whether God gives or deprives, he makes the way available to you to learn."
But the meek and timid who use some of the methods of practical theosophy to evade involvement in key areas of life have no grist for their mill. It's like trying to become world traveler, veteran of adventures and wars, by watching TV and playing video war games. At bottom, it is a fear of who one is and is supposed to become.
In cattle-raising countries, such types are called "male-cows." They are cut out of herd and killed to insure health of herd. The Theosophical Society seems to collect them. Precepts for practice have become "read the books and live a vicarious spiritual path."
When the fare of even the original books becomes too strong as they progress towards nonexistence, the precept becomes "feed them the pabulum of even a less nourishing vicarious state of "feeling good vaguely about something I didn't experience or live through myself".
The T.S. might as well advertise itself as cross between a New Thought lecture and a Christian Science Reading room offering as fare the spiritual equivalent of the invariable pick stuff found in many nursing home cafeterias, and named, "jello surprise," the sole purpose of which appears to be to make the poor inmates sicker and incapable of ever leaving (thus, procuring a steady income from those rendered helpless to have any say about their treatment) and repel any healthy types who might disrupt things.
By Suzanna Kenline
[This report to the members of The Theosophical Society, Wheaton, Illinois, USA, appeared in THE MESSENGER, October 1999.]
Recently a questionnaire was mailed to all members to elicit active dialog and input from you so we can gain a better understanding of the composition of the organization, how you feel about your membership, your expectations, hopes, and ideas for the future of the organization, and how we can serve you better.
A committee of staff members was formed (balanced by age, gender, and areas of responsibility) to develop the contents of the questionnaire. Many questions were intentionally phrased in an open-ended manner so that you could use the opportunity to be as expansive in your responses as you wanted to be.
Responses requiring a personal or immediate response and those pertaining to members expressing interest in contributing particular skills to the Society were pulled and distributed to the appropriate department heads. All responses were recorded verbatim and circulated to the project committee, administrative committee, and department supervisors for their review and consideration. An abbreviated report was presented to your Board of Directors at their July meeting.
The open-ended questions produced, in many cases, voluminous responses, too long to be included in full here, but of value to the staff for their openness and candor. Here 10 responses from each of the questions are extrapolated:
WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO JOIN THE SOCIETY?
1. I am a non-religious seeker and find myself in accord with Theosophical tenets.
2. Interest in the subjects and freedom of thought. The lack of dogma, open-mindedness.
3. To be able to interact and communicate with like-minded individuals.
4. Willingness to allow diversity.
5. Started reading THE QUEST and was very impressed. It reflects my core beliefs while enriching my spiritual understanding.
6. I am searching and was led to believe that the Society would be a help to me in understanding God, the world, my neighbor, and myself.
7. It just happened as a very natural, effortless, spontaneous, steadfast continuum of "coming home," so to speak. It was my place, and something deep within recognized it and moved my whole being to just embrace it, settle into it, study, learn, grow, practice, and serve as part of my human experience.
8. I visited the center in Wheaton, felt the space was truly beautiful, the library filled with magnificent books, and the programs were fascinating. The whole place stretched my mind and spirit.
9. To learn more about the Theosophical worldview of the universe and to have the opportunity to meet and talk with other individuals who were pursuing the ageless wisdom.
10. After reading several books by various authors and thinking about the three Objects and principles the Society represented and offered, I decided to join.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE FROM MEMBERSHIP?
1. To share personal spiritual insights without the burden of imposition and rigidity of organized religions.
2. Greater depth of knowledge and understanding of the workings of the world and my place in it. Also, camaraderie with like-minded searchers from the across the country and around the world.
3. Personal, psychological, and spiritual growth.
4. The ability to express my spirituality with greater clarity.
5. Association with other Theosophists. Guidance on the path through recommended study and good examples.
6. I hope to enhance my ability as a father and a member of the community and the world.
7. Peace of mind.
8. A greater awareness of others' beliefs, thoughts, and opinions as a labyrinth of intellectual stimulation and a kaleidoscope of other cultures and better understanding of universal tolerance.
9. Ability to cope with a stressful society by the realization through reading, learning, discussion groups, and programs to see beyond the obvious to the infinite possibilities of the human spirit.
10. Greater understanding of the three Objects and increased ability to incorporate them into my daily life.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A MEMBER?
1. Being a part of a family of like-minded people traveling the path together without prejudice -- with a common goal of oneness.
2. Being connected to an organization that supports the study of all religions without judgment.
3. I love the books and other written materials.
4. Being able to discuss with other members questions I may have or to clear up a concept that is blurry.
5. Being part of a study group that provides an opportunity to investigate and explore together.
6. It's given me a sense of being in the right place. The Olcott Library has been an inspiration to me with its wonderful books that are wonderful teachers! As a member, I feel a deep sense of gratitude, a unique and better perspective about things in general.
7. Even though I know of no one in my area, it makes me feel a part of the whole and I'm not alone in my thinking.
8. I like contributing to the YOUNG THEOSOPHISTS' NEWSLETTER, and having met a pen pal. The mere idea that such an organization exists is a comfort in today's chaotic and hostile world.
9. I feel that my own spirituality has deepened and broadened over the years.
10. This member questionnaire is a great idea and I am happy to fill it out. It gives inactive members such as myself an opportunity to express some points and hopefully an opportunity to contact other members.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE SOCIETY DOING NOW, AS AN ORGANIZATION, THAT WE ARE NOT CURRENTLY DOING?
1. Perhaps the Theosophical message needs to be reviewed and the purpose of the Society in the world of 2000 and beyond. Focus groups, surveys such as this and brainstorming sessions would be beneficial in my opinion -- on an ongoing basis.
2. The two areas I see as the weakest are programs for youth and the public speakers programs. I brought back valuable information about the latter from the Olcott Experience, but I see a need for greater involvement at the local level. Is there any chance that someone from National could present a workshop on public speaking?
3. It would be helpful if members could take new members "under wing." Personal contact is essential.
4. Sponsoring more conferences, especially regional ones and those that address/include multi-faith and inter-faith traditions, practices, perspectives.
5. More retreats and meetings (regional). I think we need to develop a deeper sense of community with one another. We need retreats and meetings that are organized, but rely on the resources of the individuals participating. Only through group participation does our sense of community develop and deepen.
6. Would like the Society to organize lectures on videotape with syllabus and make available for rental (3-6 months). Busy schedule restricts my opportunity to travel to Wheaton or other events. Would like the opportunity to take extended Theosophy courses at home on video.
7. I think that perhaps fieldwork could be expanded, especially to develop branches in places where they do not presently exist. And perhaps workers' training programs at headquarters could be introduced. I would also like to see some of the classics (THE SECRET DOCTRINE and THE MAHATMA LETTERS) issued on compact disks for computer use.
8. Offer a structured work-study program.
9. I don't know what we're doing on the Internet, but a site with a Theosophy chat room would be great -- with well-versed members offering to host an hour or two. Bulletin boards discussing topics of wide interest.
10. I would like to see more effort into putting Theosophy into everyday life. Would like to have more discussion on applied Theosophy. Would love to share with others on this.
Thanks to all of you who were able to take the time to complete the questionnaire.
By Captain P.G.B. Bowen
[From THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, September 15, 1932, pages 9-13. Note that this book is available in Adobe Acrobat format, as a .PDF file, from the following site:
The 3.08 MB file contains the entire 602 page ebook, including all its charts and figures.]
I have completed three months' study of a book, and it is borne in upon me that I owe a duty to the many whose position is more or less similar, to that which was mine to indicate what my study has done for me.
The book of which I speak is FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY, by G. de Purucker, M.A., D. LITT.
I began my study of Dr. de Purucker's work with, I regret to say, by no means an open mind. Since my first contact with organized Theosophy, which occurred half-a-dozen years ago I have observed with pain how the message which H. P. Blavatsky left to the world has been garbled and corrupted by persons who profess to be its interpreters, and who ought to be its preservers and guardians. Like hundreds -- perhaps thousands of others who observed what I observed, and who thought, more or less as I thought, I grew into feeling acting that those who represent Theosophical organizations must, almost inevitably, become corrupters of the pure teachings, or fabricators of artificial parodies, either because of lack of knowledge, or because some form of self-interest urged them thereto. Notwithstanding this feeling, something deeper -- inner hope fighting against outer pessimism -- sent me continually searching, not merely throughout the British Isles but also in America, for a School of Theosophy which existed but to preserve the Message of The Masters which H. P. Blavatsky brought to the West, and for a Teacher whose teaching would manifest the Spirit which lives in the Blavatsky teachings, and would not be a mere "Thought Form," the creation of an unregenerate human mind. Strange to say, though I encountered in my search a score or more of societies each claiming some variant of the title Theosophical, it was not until less than a year ago that I heard of Dr. de Purucker. I confess that what I learned about him did nothing toward killing my prejudices. I looked upon certain statements which he had made as evidences of unwisdom, and was much inclined to regard him as of one class with other, better known, "revealers." Then, three months ago, as already said, a copy of FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY came into my hands.
To show the impression which this book has produced upon me, and the change in my attitude toward its author which it has effected, I will pass in review a few of the more outstanding features of the teachings it contains. The items I select for comment are those which I anticipate will provoke adverse criticism -- and have, to my knowledge already provoked it from students who otherwise might be expected to be in sympathy with the author and his aims and objects.
The FORM in which the teachings are presented will provoke adverse criticism. The book (it will be said) is chaotic, formless, filled with unnecessary repetitions, and irritating asides such as references to the "Teacher," to The Chair, all of which may be quite in place or readily excusable in a lecture, but not in a book.
In regard to the references to "The Chair," I agree with the critics. Such things offend the student's aesthetic sense and serve no purpose in teaching him anything. They should be deleted from later editions.
The lack of form, etc., which the critic finds is -- to my seeing -- purely a surface appearance. True, the book is devoid of anything resembling LITERARY form, but this is not to say that it does not possess a form which has been carefully planned. The rules of literary construction must be observed when presenting ordinary exoteric teaching in book form, because the aim in such teaching is to leave the reader with a clear-cut conception such as will satisfy his mind -- for the time being at least. But in giving esoteric teachings, no such rules apply, for the aim is not to give the student a cut-and-dried conception, but in fact to prevent him from forming anything of the kind. The esoteric teacher seeks to keep the minds of those he instructs in what may be termed a fluidic state, and while inducing them to flow on through constantly expanding conceptions, to prevent them from crystallizing in anyone. The form in which Dr. de Purucker presents his teachings has exactly the effect I describe. His methods seem to me to be practically identical with those of the Jnana Yoga Gurus, and of other non-European teachers of whom I have had some experience.
The teaching concerning The Absolute will be severely criticized. A friend, devoted to the Blavatsky teachings writes:
HPB teaches of an Absolute Principle from which all proceeds, and into which all is absorbed at the end of the Maha-Manvantara ... Dr. de Purucker seems to talk about every cycle of manifestation whether of an atom, or a universe, as having its own Absolute, out of which it emerges, and into which it returns ... This is a meaningless absurdity.
I appreciate my friend's difficulty, but it is really only a difficulty to the finite human mind which faints before the thought of an "endless endlessness." Dr. de Purucker as I understand him, is wholly right, and he has done a great service to those who are anxious to become genuine esoteric students by putting the matter as he has done.
Let us consider this matter of the Absolute a little. The average student, if he directs his mind toward the subject at all, thinks of The Absolute as some THING filling all Space, and pervading everything. But get to the bottom of his thought and it will be found that the 'Space' he conceives is DIMENSIONAL space, and not at all that which is meant by the word in THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Thinking of Space in this way, his conception of The Absolute narrows down, absurdly, into something which to all intents and purposes is identical with the scientist's conception of an Ether of Space. He visualizes the universe, vaguely perhaps, as the manifestation of this 'Absolute' of his. But all lesser entities he will think of but as manifestations of some 'sparks,' that is, PORTIONS of 'the Absolute,' which of course is another absurdity. The student who has allowed an idea of this kind to possess him will naturally kick violently at Dr. de Purucker's teaching, which, if considered at all, will do what the author constantly advises us to do, "break up the molds of the mind."
The Absolute cannot, of course, be anything greater or lesser than absoluteness. But is there, or is there not some metaphysical difference between the Absolute which manifests in the Life-cycle of an atom, and that which manifests in the Life-cycle of a man, and that again which manifests in the Life-cycle of a Universe? Let us consider the matter. The Life-cycle of each of these entities begins in absoluteness, and ends by returning into the same state. The apotheosis of consciousness arrived at through a complete Life-cycle of self-experience represents a return to and absorption in absoluteness. But the apotheosis of consciousness achieved through a Life-cycle of self-experience by the atomic entity cannot be conceived to be the same as that which the human, or the universal entity achieves. Yet each is absolute. If not, then Life is not rooted in absoluteness, and the whole fabric of our philosophy collapses. To my seeing, Dr. de Purucker's teaching is wholly right. It leads the true esoteric student onward into clearer and wider conceptions, and that seems to be its purpose, not to provide 'Guidebook' information. Failure to understand that to which it leads does not justify the critic in saying that the teaching is wrong.
The question of Nirvana arises naturally from that which has been discussed. Nirvana is the apotheosis of consciousness the man reaches (speaking now of the human entity) through his complete Life-cycle of self-experience. It is absorption into absoluteness, or attainment of absolute self-consciousness. Is it the end of all our endeavors, the ultimate goal, eternal rest and bliss? The average student turns with loathing from any suggestion that it is not. Even the Yogi who claims to have experienced Samadhi scorns the idea that it is not. But Dr. de Purucker teaches, quite calmly and clearly that it is not the end. Who is right? Is Dr. de Purucker, as the critic declares, a corrupter and exaggerator of THE SECRET DOCTRINE, letting his imagination run riot, and hurling words about in insane profusion?
Let's see whether THE SECRET DOCTRINE -- the work which has been corrupted and exaggerated! -- can help us in the matter. We do not have to go far to find something apposite. On page 2, Volume I, we find these words, in reference to The Absolute:
It is the ONE LIFE, eternal, invisible, yet Omnipresent, without beginning or end, yet periodical in its regular manifestations ... unconscious, yet absolute Consciousness ... Its one ABSOLUTE ATTRIBUTE, which is ITSELF, eternal, ceaseless Motion, is called the GREAT BREATH, which is the perpetual motion of the Universe.
Now what does this "eternal, ceaseless motion" mean. It cannot mean purposeless motion round and round a barren circle, therefore it must mean (there is no alternative) "eternal, ceaseless PROGRESS." If there is this eternal progress, how can man escape from sharing it? If he RESTS forever in the absolute consciousness of Nirvana he ceases to be a sharer in that "ceaseless, eternal PROGRESS WHICH IS ABSOLUTENESS ITSELF." Which is absurd. QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM.
It is, again, the finite mind which can conceive a goal only as the end of effort. Yet the teaching of all true Teachers, whether they deal with the philosophy or with its practical application is different. "Desire the PATH, not the end of the Path." The goal is PROGRESS, not the state of having progressed!
The teachings of Dr. de Purucker concerning the Hierarchies, and his (apparent) multiplication of "The ONE, the summit or SELF of the Hierarchy" will also incur criticism as exaggerations or corruptions, and yet of course he is right if only the reader has the vision to follow the LEADING which the teaching gives. It would be merely multiplying words and filling more space than an indulgent editor may be inclined to give me to set forth my own interpretation; because understanding of what I have tried to convey concerning The Absolute will lead to understanding of these matters also.
A critic says lightly that there is nothing new in the 'Seven Keys' to understanding of the Esoteric Philosophy, which the author sets forth. Admittedly there is nothing unfamiliar in the enumeration of the doctrines but does the critic really understand the full import of this teaching?
The Seven Keys are (1) Reincarnation. (2) Karma. (3) Hierarchies. (4) Swabhava. (5) Evolution. (6) Individual Self-knowledge. (7) Atma-Vidya, or knowledge of the Selfless Self.
(I express (6) and (7) in my own way, but think my meaning is the same as that of Dr. de Purucker.)
Now how do these doctrines constitute 'Keys' to the esoteric philosophy? This is how I see the matter. Each one of those doctrines, or 'Keys' has to be studied separately and severally, and fully comprehended. That done the knowledge or wisdom gained from the study must be combined and held in the background of the mind as the basis of all further studies. Understanding of the working of Reincarnation, Karma, etc., will not constitute knowledge of the Esoteric Philosophy. It will mean only that one holds so many 'Keys' in one's hand. Not until one begins to apply the Keys to the opening of the secret doors does one begin to penetrate into the hidden Arcanum.
The same critic finds another contradiction of THE SECRET DOCTRINE in the author's remarks concerning Pralaya (page 181). He contends that HPB taught that Pralaya was a complete cessation of activity. But Dr. de Purucker implies that it is merely another form of activity. Now let us see what HPB really did teach: On page 55, Volume I, THE SECRET DOCTRINE, (b) we read:
"This Breath, as seen, CAN NEVER CEASE, NOT EVEN DURING THE PRALAYIC ETERNITIES."
There is a reference to the Chapter on "Chaos, Theos, Cosmos." Study of this is recommended to the Critic.
One could go on to the extent of a decent sized volume indicating points which are sure to cause numerous worthy READERS of THE SECRET DOCTRINE to rise in wrath and denounce them as "exaggerations or corruptions." The answers I have already given are however sufficient indication of the manner in which, I think, all such criticisms may be dealt with. It is a fact, which I discovered during my five years wandering in the Wilderness that a very large number of most worthy people, genuinely wedded to the teachings of H. P. Blavatsky are not really students of THE SECRET DOCTRINE at all. At best they are STUDENTS of certain portions of this great work, and merely readers of the rest. The result of all such partial study is to congeal the mind into rigid conceptions. Partial study will never lead to understanding of THE SECRET DOCTRINE. Those who criticize in the way I have illustrated, and they will be many, do not, as I hope I have shown, understand THE SECRET DOCTRINE. One must have some COMPREHENSIVE view of THE SECRET DOCTRINE before one can venture to criticize a work like FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ESOTERIC PHILOSOPHY.
The simple fact to be noted about Dr. de Purucker's book is that it is a presentation of ESOTERIC Instructions and is specifically addressed to esoteric students. Its object is assuredly not to give additional information of the 'Guidebook' kind, but to help to roll up another inch or so the veil which hangs before the plan of existence. HPB tells us that all that THE SECRET DOCTRINE does is to lift a corner of the veil. If we study her work comprehensively, we will find that it does just that. We glimpse a corner of a wonderful landscape. We see roads and tracks leading on beyond the edge of the upturned corner of the veil. "We see a picture of incompleteness" as a friend aptly put it. Now the test to apply to Dr. de Purucker's work is, does that which be reveals to us, or rather that which be helps us to uncover for us FIT ONTO AND EXTEND THE "INCOMPLETENESS" ALREADY UNCOVERED BY THE S. D.?
This is a question which each student must answer for himself. For myself I can answer very definitely in the affirmative. In very many directions it has extended my vision, and these extensions fit accurately onto the view which I already possessed. In saying this I do not for a moment imply that I have grasped more than a fraction of all that the book contains. There is much, very much which eludes me in the book, but more which, though it brings no clear vision yet sets shadowy pictures moving in the upper reaches of my mind. But I note that many things are deliberately veiled from those who are not members of Dr. de Purucker's School, and I am grateful for what I have got, all the more so as it was wholly unexpected.
The greatest debt I owe to this book is not however the additional enlightenment which it has led me to, but is the fact which it has revealed to me that there is in existence a genuine Esoteric School in which the Spirit of the Masters' teachings survives. Therefore I need no longer be a wanderer in the Wilderness.
By Kenneth Morris
[from THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, July 1946, pages 289-96. This article was based upon an informal talk given to a group of coal miners in the Rhonddha Valley, Wales in 1933.]
In ancient times there were no churches, as we have now the Christian, Buddhist or Mohammedan Churches. Each tribe or race had its own god or gods about whom many stories were told, and in whose honor various festivals were held at different times of the year. These stories and festivals all had an inner meaning and were meant to suggest something of hidden truth to the enquiring mind. Some such stories come down to us from the ancient Welsh in THE MABINOGION, and there would be some earnest natures who would ask, what is the meaning of it? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life and death? How can I acquire such knowledge of these things as the gods have?
An inquirer of those days went to the Druids who were the custodians of wisdom and said, "Teach me! I want to understand the Mysteries of the Universe." And the Druids would answer: "Discipline comes before Philosophy. He who would know the doctrine, let him do the Will." And there must be a pledge of secrecy never to reveal what was learned.
So the candidate pledged himself, and underwent training for years until his spiritual nature and perceptions were thoroughly awakened, and he came to understand, in varying degree, the truth about himself and life and death and the universe.
Now that was the method all over the world. Whether you look at Greece or India, Egypt or China, Wales or Mexico or Peru, you find the same general method: a simple religion, with stories about the gods and festivals in their honor, for the people; schools pledged to secrecy in which candidates for wisdom could receive training and initiation.
But all human institutions suffer the same fate: they grow old in time and die. The Schools of the Mysteries grew old, and became ineffectual as a link between the world and the Spirit. In and about the Sixth Century before Christ a tremendously significant thing happened. Remember that in those days if a man traveled from Greece to Egypt he was a very great traveler; that few Greeks had traveled as far as to Persia; that they had but vaguely heard of India; that Hindus hardly knew there was such a country as China, or Chinese that there was such a country as India; still less did people in the Old World know of America. And yet at that one time seven great men appeared in the world: two in China, two in India, one in Persia, one in Greece, and one in Mexico -- Lao-tse and Confucius, the Buddha and the Founder of what is called the Jain religion, Zoroaster, Pythagoras and the Mexican Emperor Quetzalcoatl. These all turned their backs on the official Mysteries of their countries and started a new epoch, a new phase of history: the Age of the great World Religions. They all lived at the same time and the teachings of each were suited to his own country, but they all had a great body of ideas in common, and nowhere do they contradict each other. And when, five or six centuries later, another Great Teacher arose in Galilee, we find him giving out the same teachings that his glorious predecessors had given out: that there was a Right Way to Live, a right path to follow by which one might come to know the secrets of life and death.
The Founders of all the Great Religions were at one in this way: they all claimed that they taught nothing new. "I preach the Law, the Doctrine of all the Buddhas my predecessors," said the great Indian Prince, Gautama Siddhartha, who, moved by infinite compassion for the woes of mankind, gave up his wealth and power and wandered the world seeking until he found the cure for human sorrow. "I preach the Tao, the Way of the Universe," said Great Lao-tse of China, "which would seem to be older than God." "I originate nothing," said Home Secretary Confucius, who had wiped out evil-doing in his country simply by the example he set. "I love the Ancients, and therefore I teach the doctrine of the Ancients."
That is to say that what they had to teach had always been in the world and only needed restating and being given new authority and published abroad. There were two sides of it: the Will and the Doctrine, the Ethics and the Philosophy. They all gave out the ethics such as are contained in the Sermon on the Mount, and they all gave out more or less of the Doctrine and the Philosophy; the Buddha most of all. The Philosophy was the very heart of the Mysteries and contained the basic ideas about life and the importance of ethics as the reason why right is right and could be no other way.
Let us explain these basic ideas and how they affected human history. Consider history as a road and the Mysteries the light illuminating that road, and streaming forth in many directions, shedding its beams on the activities of man all down the ages.
History from books gives only the skeleton, and to get flesh on those bones and the breath of life into the body it is necessary to read the literature of the period you wish to study. And so with religion -- if you want to know the religion of any people or age study their art; it will give you their vital spiritual inspiration. So now the streams of light along the dark, wet road will be the art of some of the ancient and modern civilizations. Let us look at Egyptian art and see in the gigantic bust of Rameses II eternity calm and unmoved. In its remote humanity there is the suggestion that such a being would be unaffected if the universe crumbled in ruin. It is typical of all the statues of the Egyptian kings. In his art the sculptor said, "The Pharoah was as other men when living but what we are to carve in stone is the eternal part, the godlike part that is eternal." It is man that is the manifestation here of the Divine Principle which ensouls eternity.
The same tale is told in thousands of statues of the Pharoahs; in the great statue of the Vocal Memnon which sits beside the Nile forever gazing out into its kindred eternity; in the ancient Sphinx coeval with the desert sands, coeval with the Soul of Man, typical of its grandeur.
The Gods are what scientific Europe imagine to be dead, soulless things; or in the future will call the Forces of Nature. But we know that the Sun is a living being, that Nature is a living being, and also Electricity is a living being: like unto ourselves as being living and conscious but with a great unlikeness to ourselves too. And so the statues of the Gods are symbolical, suggesting the spiritual qualities of the soul as being different and above the human. Thus Horns, the Sun-god, is shown with a hawk's head, because that bird, sailing aloft, sitting calm in the blue of heaven on its outstretched wings, reminds us of our Lord the Sun. Thus we shall be reminded that the Gods, though living beings, are not personalities like ourselves in the lower aspect of our nature. And we shall also be reminded that Man is God: that the inmost self is Divine, ancient, constant and eternal.
Turn now to the art of China: perhaps the greatest the world has ever seen. Among the mountains of the province of Che-kiang and up the valley of the Yangtse-kiang -- the Son-of-the-Ocean River -- they built their temples and monasteries. Visualize the jagged sky line of the peaks and mountain-shoulders above; the slopes clad in pine forests; the still waters of the lake below; the cliffs and crags soaring above, and up there, looking as if Nature herself in her loveliest mood had blossomed out into it, the temple with its intricately carved pillars, its tilted eaves, its glazed tile roofs shining yellow, or azure or richest purple; right at the top of the precipice yonder, or there snuggling into the cleft; looking as if nothing could have had the skill, the sheer artistry, to build it but that which put the blossom on the rose and on the daffodil. Right here we see in the heart of Nature the loveliest work of Man -- who is a part of Nature inseparable from the universe, the child of Nature, of the universe; divine as they are: the divine fruitage of a divine Tree of Being.
A Chinese painting tells the same story. A square foot of silk and a thousand miles of space. More than that, for the fine Chinese landscape always manages to suggest infinity. Looking into such pictures, one's mood is uplifted, carried out beyond the show of things, of petty griefs and vanities, into Tao, the Way of the Universe.
And now turning to Greek art, selecting first their architecture, the same note appears. Put a Greek temple in its right surroundings, and you have it again on the mountainside -- a thing of white marble pillars chaste among the dark green of pines, reflected on the still blue waters below. The same tale is told by it: Man's work in the midst of Nature's, perfect as if Nature had made it and not man; Man one with Nature; Man and Nature divine.
But unfortunately that is not all Greece has to tell us. When the Great Teachers were founding the religions; when Prince Gautama left his palace to find the truth and to become the Buddha; when Confucius left his Home-Secretary's office to wander the world in search of a king, a young man left Greece to find truth somewhere in the world. His name was Pythagoras, and he journeyed to India, Persia and Egypt, and perhaps to Britain to study under the Druids. He returned to Greece, or rather to Italy, which was then dotted with Greek colonies, and there at the town of Krotona he founded a school and started his new religion -- the same religion that all the others started. But the Greeks of Krotona arose and destroyed the school, and scattered the Pythagoreans. The effort failed. And we see the consequences. Greek sculpture began by taking a leaf from the Egyptian sculptors' book; the early statues have some of the majesty and grandeur of the Egyptian, some of the majesty and grandeur of the Human Soul, the Deathless. But then they obtained greater and greater technique, greater and greater mastery over their medium; and with it more and more an eye to physical, and less and less an eye to spiritual beauty. In Pheidias, the greatest of the Greek sculptors, you see still some touch of Egyptian dignity, but far more sense than the Egyptians ever had of the attractive beauty of human flesh and form. And then when you get to Praxiteles about a century later you get such a work as his Apollo Suroktonos -- Apollo the Lizard-killer -- a pretty lackadaisical effeminate youth for sentimental maidens to fall in love with: the Sun-god, among the most sublime conceptions the human mind has ever risen to, reduced to that! The Greeks as they progressed steadily went on losing sight of the spirit, and becoming more and more interested in the flesh. And we have suffered for it ever since.
For Greco-Roman civilization went down, and night fell on the western world. Caesar had smashed Druidism, the one branch of the ancient Mysteries that remained pure, and where was light to be found to inspire the new civilization that was to rise in Europe? It began to rise: day dawned, after eight centuries of barbarism, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Then once again there was a grand flowering of the human spirit, a triumphant outburst of human genius, in western Europe. But where was its Buddha, its Lao-tse or Confucius, its Pythagoras, Zoroaster or Quetzalcoatl? The answer is not in Christian civilization for it has never been inspired by the ideas of Jesus, and was not founded on them.
The next great flowering of genius in Europe after the era of the magnificent Gothic cathedrals was through the art that comes next above sculpture and architecture in the non-materiality of its medium: painting; the painting of the Italian Renaissance, in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Here again, for one who knows the spirituality of the Chinese painting, is a sad story to read. There are endless pictures of Christ, the Virgin and child, and the saints. Read the Gospel story and derive anew for yourself a conception of what sort of Man the hero of that story is. The Lion of Nazareth, a denouncer of threats, who made the dignitaries of the church tremble: was that not he?
And what do we get in the pictures of him? A piteous man, eyes turned up to heaven in impotent supplication! Any learned and honest Hebrew scholar will tell you that the Cry on the Cross rightly translated runs: "My God, my God, how thou dost glorify me!" That, and not the other, is the man to compare to the Buddha himself in grandeur. "Ye are Gods in the innermost of your being"; not "Ye are worms and sinners." So the great painting of European civilization missed carrying any spiritual message, and misinterpreted the Great One whom it professed to honor.
But next that creative force, having exhausted the art of painting, flowed into the art next above it in non-materiality of medium, literature. It would take too long to look into the great literary figures of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, or you would see how the divine Soul of Man was coming back into its own: into the signs you could read in Cervantes and Shakespeare, for example. I will just mention Milton who sets out to write an orthodox theological poem, and somehow the divine soul steps in and thwarts his purpose. He paints Satan and his angels hurled out of Paradise into bottomless perdition, but through all the picture another shines through, that of the Soul of Man divine, cast down into incarnation into the hell of material life on earth, but divine still. And Milton shows how "In our proper motion," we ascend up to our native godhood.
And now to music, most divine of the arts. In the eighteenth century the great age of European literature was coming to an end; its last appearance was in Germany through the voice of Goethe. But already in music there had been a Bach, opener of a Great Age, and Mozart, like a pure spirit descended from heaven to tell the world of unearthly and unutterable beauty. He was to be followed by the summit figure of European genius, that of the tremendous Beethoven with the wings of thunder. What has he to tell us? Eternally that the soul of man is divine. Master of the lower forces of his nature, with every ringing note of music he proclaimed and accentuated the message of Jesus and Buddha and Confucius; of the Egyptian sculptors and the Chinese architects and painters and poets -- ETERNALLY THAT THE SOUL OF MAN IS DIVINE.
And then came H. P. Blavatsky to explain things, to teach once more the Doctrine, the Philosophy of the Mysteries, of the Buddha, Lao-tse, Confucius, Pythagoras, Quetzalcoatl and Jesus; and to found the Theosophical Society. Man is divine, she taught us; and she taught us how and why. He is immortal; the master and maker of his own destiny. He lives many lives on earth, and shall, until he has learned all that life on earth can teach him -- until he has made the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Study Theosophy. There is no problem in life that it cannot help you to solve. By your own efforts you shall save yourselves. By your own efforts make this earth, your home, into a paradise. For the universe exists for the purposes of the Soul; everything, every existence in it, is learning by experience, is on the upward path. You can find the God within yourself, that is the inner core of your being. You are the child of the universe, part and parcel of it, of Nature universal. You may win to the Heart of it. You may acquire transcendental wisdom and become even as the Christ and the Buddha, God-Men, Men Gods. There is knowledge to attain. There is divinity. And there is a way to attain it. We suffer from ourselves. There is no injustice. We have made our present lives; and we are what we have made ourselves. We are at the mercy of none but ourselves, and can make our tomorrow glorious. That is the message of Theosophy, as far as I can put it in a few words: the Divinity of Man -- of you, of me, of all of us.